Nigerian Students Sue Alabama State

     (CN) — Forty-one Nigerian students attending Alabama State University claim in court that the school “confiscated and converted” their sponsorship money.
     The group — which includes plaintiffs Success Jumbo, Savior Samuel, Thankgod Harold, Godsgift Moses and others — sued Alabama State University in Middle Alabama Federal Court on Aug. 25.
     The students claim the university deprived them of certain sponsorship funds to which they were entitled, in violation of their civil rights.
     The controversy stems from a financial agreement between Alabama State and Nigeria, which provides sponsorship money for the Nigerian students to attend the American university.
     According to the 12-page complaint, the university removed funds from the students’ financial accounts that had been deposited near the end of the 2013-2014 academic school year.
     The students were told that the money was being applied to the 2014-2015 school year but the university did not return the money, even after Nigeria had paid that year’s expenses in their entirety, the students claim.
     “ASU did not return the money taken from the students’ accounts for the prior academic year, and did not deposit any excess sponsorship monies in the students’ accounts,” the complaint states. “Instead, ASU simply confiscated and converted to its own separate use said money, and as such, denied the plaintiff students the benefits of the monies they are entitled to.”
     The lawsuit says Alabama State ignored a letter from a Nigerian official directing the university to refund the money in question to the students. The university also allegedly denied the students’ written demand, submitted by counsel, seeking disbursement.
     According to the students, the university’s failure to distribute the funds amounts to discrimination on the basis of national origin.
     “(T)he students have been unlawfully discriminated against by being denied, excluded, and/or subjected to decreased services from Alabama State University, and/or denied the opportunity to participate in educational opportunities at Alabama State University,” the complaint states.
     The lawsuit also includes claims for breach of fiduciary duty, breach of agreement for the benefit of a third-party beneficiary and unjust enrichment.
     According to the complaint, Alabama State “willingly and fraudulently breached their fiduciary duty owed to plaintiffs by not distributing scholarship funds paid by the Nigerian government to ASU for ASU’s disbursement to the students.”
     The students want the court to order Alabama Student to refund all the money in question.
     A previous suit seeking declaratory judgment in the matter was dismissed without prejudice in July for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. Unlike the Aug. 25 complaint, that lawsuit did not include Nigeria as a necessary-party defendant.
     Alabama State spokesman Kenneth Mullinax said the university does not comment on pending litigation.
     The plaintiffs are represented in the case by attorney Julian McPhillips Jr., with the Montgomery law firm McPhillips Shinbaum.

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